GREEN BAY – Jeff Saturday has heard from more than a few “old-timers” on the topic, and not a one has called the Green Bay Packers veteran center to tell him that he’s helped turn NFL training camps into something roughly as physical as Vacation Bible School.
Instead, Saturday said, he’s heard from countless former players who believe he and the other NFL Players Association reps who helped shape the NFL’s new rules for camp did the absolute right thing by pushing for new rules that eliminated two-a-day practices, lessened the amount of full-pads work and required off days during camp.
“The ones that are saying ‘You’re soft’ probably get the most media attention, but 99 percent of all guys I’ve ever met have said ‘That’s a job well done,’” Saturday said after Monday’s in-pads practice, which followed a mandatory full day off for the players. “That’s what you want to do; you want to protect our guys. It’s about longevity; it’s about keeping guys around. It’s not about wearing guys out.”
Packers general manager Ted Thompson is one of those old-timers, having played 10 NFL seasons largely on special teams from 1975 through 1984. He remembered playing high-school football in Texas when the mentality was, well, a bit different.
“When I was in high school, they wouldn’t give you water during two-a-day practices — we actually went two-a-days,” Thompson recalled. “All they’d give you — there would be a five-minute break and they’d bring you a salt tablet with no water to drink or anything like that. So, with education, I think everybody starts figuring it out, and we’re hopeful that’s the way it’s going to be.
“I think I probably stand on the same side as everybody else. We’re all very concerned about keeping our players healthy. I’d like to wrap them all up in bubble wrap. The more educated we’ve become, it’s better. I think we have a better chance of getting our arms wrapped around it. I’m certainly not intelligent enough to comment on it in-depth but I think with technology, with more knowledge — the league is doing an extraordinary amount of work on it. It’s something that concerns everybody.”
Both Saturday and Thompson agreed that the limitations on practice time and full-pads work, while perhaps inconvenient to some coaches, still provide ample information to make judgments on players.
“Different people will tell you different things. I thought last year, without any OTAs and with limited practices in training camp, I thought as a whole the NFL looked like a pretty good game,” Thompson said.
“We get plenty of work. Make no mistake. We still get plenty of work,” Saturday said. “Listen, we’re trying to protect guys. Football is a great game, I love the game, I don’t want to sacrifice people’s future for this game. I get back messages from older players and former players who say, ‘Look, man, what a great thing to do, to get guys just one practice a day.’ I feel good about that. If it helps us in the future with guys not having the same issues that they’re having now, we’ve done a good job. We won’t know for years to come, but hopefully it’ll work out that way.”
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